EVANSTON, Ill. | Northwestern isn't on the level of No. 10 Iowa. That was apparent Saturday.
Drew Crawford had 20 points for the Wildcats in a 76-50 loss to the Hawkeyes. Northwestern (10-11, 3-5 Big Ten) had won three of four but never led and couldn't keep up with Iowa, which outscored them 46-26 in the second half.
The Wildcats only shot 36.4 percent from the field (20 of 55).
"Obviously Iowa's a tremendous team. Give them credit, but we didn't play our best, especially in the second half," Crawford said. "I think that's a team we're capable of competing with for 40 minutes and tonight we weren't able to do that."
Saturday was a rematch of the teams' Jan. 9 game in Iowa City which the Hawkeyes won 93-67 after shooting 64.3 percent during the second half. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was suspended for that game after getting ejected during the Hawkeyes' previous game at Wisconsin.
That first game was a turning point for Northwestern. Including the teams' first matchup, the Wildcats started conference play 0-3 and were allowing an average of 81 points per game.
In the next four games — a stretch that included a win over then-No. 23 Illinois, a victory at Indiana and a double-overtime win over Purdue — the Wildcats only gave up 51 points per game.
That didn't continue, especially during the second half when Iowa's depth wore out Northwestern.
"I think that's why they won. I really do," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "Our guys were playing hard. That's what I'm saying. This wasn't like they played harder than us. Both teams played really hard. They're just better than us."
Northwestern got Dave Sobolewski back after he missed four games (concussion), and had Crawford break the school record by playing in his 131st game and starting his 130th. He topped the marks set by John Shurna and Michael Thompson, respectively.
Unlike the first meeting, when the Hawkeyes led 41-26 at halftime, Iowa struggled to separate from Northwestern during the first half despite making 50 percent of its shots compared to the Wildcats' 31. Iowa was in front 30-24 at halftime but at one point went more than 6 minutes between baskets.
"In the first half we had a lot of turnovers (10). I credit Northwestern for that," Iowa guard Mike Gesell said. "They really got into us defensively. They've been playing really good defense."
Leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble had 14 points, and Gabriel Olaseni had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Gesell added 11 points for the Hawkeyes (16-4, 5-2), who avoided losing consecutive games for the first time this season after falling 75-67 at No. 21 Michigan on Wednesday.
They shot 51.9 percent from the field (28 of 54) and won their fourth in five games. That helped them recover from not just a tough loss, but a trip that saw them stranded in Ann Arbor because of inclement weather until Thursday morning.
"You always wonder how's your team going to respond in those situations, and for us. amazing maturity," McCaffery said. "They locked into the game plan on Thursday, they had a great practice on Friday, go to the bus, no complaints about travel, go play the next team and follow the game plan."
For Iowa, that means getting contributions from the whole roster, and that kept going Saturday.
Iowa, which outrebounded Northwestern 44-20, had nine players score. Marble didn't make his first field goal until 3:08 into the second half.
That was part of a 7-0 run that gave the Hawkeyes a 41-30 lead, their first double-digit advantage. Northwestern never got closer than seven points during a second half Iowa dominated 46-26.
"I just came out and was more aggressive. I was too laid back I think in the first half," Marble said. "Coach McCaffery let me know that throughout the first half and at halftime. He said, 'I need you to bounce back in the second half.'"
He did, and once again Iowa was too much for Northwestern.
Unlike Crawford and Northwestern, Marble and Iowa can afford to have some of its best players struggle at times. That happened a bit Saturday — with Marble's slow start and Aaron White scoring just five points.
"Our margin for error is slim," Collins said. "When we play a team this good we're going to have to shoot well and we're going to have to not turn over. We're going to have to hope they miss some shots that they normally hit."
McCaffery and Collins wore sneakers as part of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer weekend.